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CG zoning and soil test

  • Subject: [cg] CG zoning and soil test
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 21:04:06 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, all,

Just back from a great week in Vermont, saw an
interesting garden at Bennington College. Fantastic
music, too.

On zoning, then on soil testing:

There is no earthly reason why a community garden -
particularly a 'typical' small (1/2 acre or less)
allotment garden - needs to have agricultural zoning.
That's doubly true if the garden is managed
organically. The reason is simple: most community
gardeners use familiar customary techniques common in
areas with residential zoning. They are the same
activities, same products and same equipment used by
residential homeowners in their front and back yards
(products and equipment sold in any big box garden
center). Essentially, most community garden and
greening projects provide a 'yard' for people without
access to land or who prefer gardening in a group
setting. 'Agricultural zoning' set up for large
agribusiness fields or livestock operations is
completely inappropriate in this context.

Part of the problem here - and it may represent an
important area for ACGA education activities - may
have to do with planners who have no experience with
community gardens and greening projects, who have not
learned about them in their college programs, and who
have very limited knowledge of what community
gardeners actually do. These planners want to be
'safe', but by the logic they follow, every backyard
or balcony tomato plant would require agricultural
zoning. Besides, chemical use, pollution and noise
generated by conventional residential lawncare are
much closer to agribusiness activities and problems
than most community gardening practices.

So, good luck educating your planning staff.

One caveat: A larger (> 1/2 acre) urban farm or
greenhouse project might in fact be appropriately
zoned agricultural, depending on how you manage it
(organic or not; intensive production or more

Soil testing can mean two quite different things. For
nutrient management and pH, a periodic 'agronomic'
soil test helps gardeners know the proper quantities
of fertilizer, lime and organic matter to add, instead
of guessing. These are not terribly expensive and they
are worthwhile, in my opinion (more expensive
'biological' soil testing is also available from 'soil
food web' and others, and it's great if you can afford

In urban areas, it doesn't hurt to test for dangerous
materials in the soil, such as lead or industrial
chemical residues. These are very different
'environmental toxicology'  tests, and more expensive.
But, yeah, they probably are a very good idea if you
are going to put garden on a vacant lot in the middle
of the city. They don't need to be repeated in most
cases, since they are intended to help you decide if
you need a different garden site, or need to use a
'non-traditional' approach such as growbags.

Good luck!

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte NC


Hi Robin -


The City of Beaverton, Oregon opened its third
community garden this
year and one of the primary issues we had to work
through was that of
zoning.  Our garden spot was located in an area zoned
"high density
residential" which did not go over well initially with
the planning
staff.  Ultimately it was determined that a "garden"
was essentially a
type of park or green space that was allowed in that
type of zone.  We
did have to go through several months of work and
permitting, but
ultimately had it approved.


Auxiliary Services Program Manager=20
Office of the Mayor=20
City of Beaverton=20
P.O. Box 4755, Beaverton, OR 97076=20
Office: 503.526.2217=20
Fax: 503.526.3730=20

-----Original Message-----
From: community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
[mailto:community_garden-admin@mallorn.com] On Behalf
Of markstanley
Sent: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 2:04 PM
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Subject: [cg] zoning/permits for community gardens


I live in a small town in the foothills of Northern
California.  Our
church wants to create a community garden on property
that is zoned
residential.  Does anyone have any information on
zoning practices for
community gardens?  Our planning department says it
has to be on
property zoned agricultural. (There is a great deal of
in the county.)


Thank you,

Robin Stanley=20

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